While used almost interchangeably, lockout and tagout are two different things. They are both designed to ensure equipment is kept deenergized while being serviced, but they are two different tactics. And this can cause confusion, even among safety professionals.

Lockout is what is almost always used in general industry. Locking out an energy source correctly is the surest way to prevent it from accidentally being turned on. This involves having an accurate lockout procedure and verification process, only having a single key for each lock with the employee doing the work having the key in their possession at all times, and a good training program so the employees involved understand how to properly utilize lockout procedures, and not to mess with locks that are in place.

Tagout, on the other hand, is used in conditions where an energy source cannot be managed with a lock, such as older equipment that may not have lockable switches. Tagout relies upon communicating information to employees via a tag so they do not activate the energy sources. Tagout is rarely used compared to lockout.

Putting a tag on a lock and attaching it to the energy source is not “locking and tagging it out”. It is simply locking it out, with the tag being the label required for the lock. When there is not an explicit need for tagout, I typically recommend eliminating the tagout tags and utilizing locks that have durable stickers with consistent verbiage. OSHA requires that the locks be consistent in one of the three 1) size 2) color or 3) shape. Generally, the best option is to have consistent locks of the same brand, with different colors to denote different departments or groups of employees. Ensure they have stickers that are not faded, have the employee’s name legibly written, and say something to the effect of “Lockout out-Do not remove”.

Eliminating tags when not used as tagout is intended is an easy way to remove confusion, eliminate an unnecessary step and materials (applying tags to locks with each lockout), can cut costs without adding risk (due to not having to constantly replenish lost and faded tags), and makes for an easier plan to manage.

If you have any questions regarding lockout/tagout or any other safety program, always feel free to ask Provenio Consulting!